01 February 2013 Issue 1 Jennifer Palmer-Violet

Don’t fear the Tweeter

There's a global conversation happening about private client practice. Are you an active part of it?

It’s called ‘social’ media. But ubiquitous networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, are becoming increasingly important for business. Twitter is another popular option. It offers a real-time connection with those customers, clients, partners and peers who are among its 200 million active users worldwide.

Twitter is simply a two-way channel for content – ‘tweets’ of 140 characters or fewer. Whether firms are breaking news, gathering market intelligence and feedback, answering queries or building relationships, it’s an effective business development tool. And despite being free, there is control at hand. Users may add a background to the site, approve or deny ‘follower’ requests and delete their own tweets. It’s user-friendly and easily accessible from desktops or handheld devices.

However, the medium should not replace face-to-face and traditional contact, nor should it exist in isolation. Twitter must form part of a wider marketing or communications strategy that supports a firm’s ultimate objectives. It’s just another way to publicise intellectual property and expertise, and to bring in more clients, says MD Communications Managing Director Melissa Davis.

‘The first thing to establish is what you want to get out of social media,’ she says. ‘Dealing with trusts and estates, often worldwide, you need to ask: is this for marketing, PR or customer services – or all three? From here, make sure you have a dedicated social media policy in place then decide who should be in charge of it.’

Engaging meaningfully with people and maintaining authenticity is key. Davis says social media is not a sales platform to offer cut-price wills, for example. ‘A quick, honest and straightforward approach is the most successful one,’ she says. ‘Be helpful and you will go far.’

As with all online activity, Twitter is about building credibility, adds Darshan Sanghrajka, Brand Strategy and Campaigns Director at The House London. ‘The best way to be an influencer on Twitter is to share content both from your own organisation and from other relevant Twitter users,’ he says. ‘Be generous and humble in your tone. It’s about your followers and those you follow as much as it is about your organisation.’

Businesses use the medium to complement their principal online presence and direct people back to their website. It’s an approach financial planner Clive Barwell TEP is using. ‘Last year, I launched an extended personal profile at my website to be the hub of my ongoing social media campaign,’ he says. ‘It is a way for all professional advisors to differentiate themselves and get their message out to an even wider audience.’

Accountant and sole practitioner Louise Brown TEP agrees. ‘I use Twitter to increase name awareness locally, to join in debates on relevant professional matters, and to keep in touch with clients and offer tips and comments,’ she says.

Step up

STEP joined Twitter in February 2011 to engage with members and others. It garnered a steady stream of followers through its first year and has seen a surge in interest after upping the quality and quantity of tweets and finding its voice. From industry news to event details, vacancies to educational content, the Society maintains a regular presence on Twitter – it even announced the Private Client Award winners live last year.

The 1,000th follower signed up in September 2012 and the numbers keep multiplying as member and associate firms realise the business benefits. Altro & Associates in Canada uses Twitter and other social media to connect with clients and professionals; Michael Powell of Hawksford admits he has never used it but his marketing team confirm it’s ‘marvellous’; while Mick Jones, Managing Director of thewealthworks, says although it’s too early to judge success it seems to offer a visibility that is difficult to find elsewhere.

STEP is dedicated to developing its offering. One benefit of STEP is the networking, of course. Attend an event, and delegates can observe or participate. It’s the same online. Barwell adds: ‘Without a doubt, social media is the way to market professional services. It is the next best thing to a personal referral.’

Follow STEP Twitter

More tips at www.step.org/resources/marketing_portal/related_articles/social_media.aspx

The missing link

Chartered Accountant Bruce Watterson is Director of Dixcart Trust Corporation in Guernsey and a STEP Qualified Practitioner student. He compiled these tips after attending a business networking conference and realising how many people are unclear about LinkedIn. Bruce has had a LinkedIn account since 2008 and has built up more than 500 connections.

Another social network for professionals is LinkedIn, where both individuals and firms can create a profile. It’s a thought-leadership authority builder and business-to-business marketing tool. Bruce Watterson offers 13 tips to make the most of the platform.

1. Full name

Surprisingly, many people still use abbreviations instead of displaying their full name. LinkedIn gives you this option for privacy, but you are potentially making yourself unattractive to those who may want to contact you or learn more.

2. Your headshot

On a social networking platform, not displaying your photo raises more questions than answers. If you have an interview, business opportunity or meeting to attend, you present yourself, so why not show your face online? Accounting and legal firms are people businesses: your main assets are your staff and your main income comes from clients. Your profile photograph should project a professional image and not be a holiday snap.

3. Professional headline

This appears under your name and is prominent in search results. Use your current job title and company. And if you are looking for opportunities, brand yourself properly.

4. Status updates

The status update shows that you undertake relevant activities to support your particular role. Are you attending a conference? Share it. Did you read something interesting that is relevant to your business? Share it. Use your status update to show your relevance and be timely. You do not want someone viewing your profile to see old updates.

5. Work experience

Your profile does not need to be as detailed as a CV, but even a one-sentence summary about your current and previous roles will suffice. It is useful to list as much detail as possible about your time at each company so you will show up in more search results. You can import your CV for speed, if preferred.

6. Education and professional qualifications

These are vital for professionally qualified people. The university you attended, any postgraduate qualifications and your professional qualifications, institute and memberships are especially important.

7. Recommendations

These are a useful and important way of demonstrating your value in a quick and easy to understand way. Inviting clients, intermediaries and past colleagues to recommend your work adds depth.

8. Professional summary

Do not just register on LinkedIn as if you are posting your CV online. The professional summary section is a space for introduction. Why would you want to have a presence on a social networking platform and not introduce yourself?

9. Make connections

If you are on LinkedIn, you should be networking. If you are an accountant or lawyer you will have years if not decades of professional experience from which to develop potential connections.

It’s an important way of being found in the mass database. As a rule of thumb, multiply your age by ten and that is the number of connections that you should be working towards. Is this a high target?

If you are a partner or director of a firm and have ten connections, what does that say?

10. Join groups

This is not only a good way to advertise your key areas of interest to other LinkedIn users, but also an excellent way of aiming any information, notes or news items at relevant people.

11. Customise your URL

When you sign up to LinkedIn you are provided with a public URL, which you can then include in your email signature, for example. Claiming your name here is one of the first things you should do. If you have a common name, make sure you claim your URL before others do.

12. Websites

You can add up to three websites to your profile. At the very least link to your main company website, any associates or subsidiaries and consider professional institution websites, blogs you follow or anything else that supports your areas of interest and expertise.

13. Privacy

Many businesses ask to connect for no apparent reason. Adjust your profile viewing options in the privacy control section so they cannot see all the details of all your connections.

Join STEP’s groups via STEP's LinkedIn page


Jennifer Palmer-Violet